In this three-part series, I wonder out loud why high-market teams are experiencing trouble with their top notch new stadiums. In Part One, I detailed the Dallas Cowboys. Now the new Yankee Stadium highlights part two.
From the first game of the season, it was clear something eerie was occurring.
Fly balls that routinely found its way into the outfielder's glove suddenly were taking a different route. One that culminated into the waiting arms of an eager fan sitting in section 106.
The new Yankee Stadium first played host to the struggling Cleveland Indians on April 16, 2009. The Indians scored 40 runs in four games, including a 22-4 softball style drubbing in game three of the series.
Alarms were being sent off, and not just by the Yankee Stadium DJ after every Yankees home run. It didn't take very long for critics to bash into the architecture and the intricacies of the new stadium.
Hall-of-Fame writer Peter Gammons declared the $1.5 billion stadium to be, "One of the biggest jokes in baseball." He then criticized the architects of the venue, questioning how thoroughly it was planned out.
Yankee Stadium has gone from a sports cathedral to a site in which Anderson Hernandez can pop a three-run home run off of C.C. Sabathia. Its favoritism towards power hitters has rendered the statistics of the best Yankees irrelevant.
How can Mark Teixeira win the MVP over Joe Mauer when he is the beneficiary of playing 81 games at a park in which broken bat fly balls make their way to the third row? And as if Alex Rodriguez's legacy isn't tainted enough already, his reputation will take another hit if Yankee Stadium continues to play the way it has already.
Statistics are suddenly meaningless around the Yankees. And in a game fueled by tracking home runs and OPS and RBI, this is bad news for the Yankees.
Conversely, one can argue that Yankee Stadium has played right into the mold that the Yankees are built for. Their top three starters each contain an arsenal of power pitches, neutralizing the way fly balls launch themselves into the bleachers.
Their primary setup man is a power pitcher, and their closer wouldn’t give up home runs in Williamsport. Additionally, they are loaded with left-handed sluggers that can hit a pop up into the second deck. The Yankees' top opponents boast similarly talented players, but lack the ability to consistently throw the ball past batters as the Yankees can.
This could serve as a major advantage by October. And isn’t that the goal for a team, to maximize its advantage in the 81-plus games they play at home?
It’s a unique issue that has received endless press and speculation. The only news that appears to be concrete is the Yankees will have discussions this offseason for potential renovations. But if the Yankees continue to build on their 41-18 home record and take home their 27th title, change may not be something on the horizon.
Of course, as much coverage as the legitimacy of Yankees home runs has received, similar criticism has been directed at the financial dynamics of the stadium.
After opening day, a Yankees home game was not sold out until Aug. 7, which was game one of a four-game set against the Boston Red Sox. In between that period, discussions regarding the stadium were dominating by the disturbing blotches of empty seats behind home plate.
Even the son of the arrogant George Steinbrenner conceded that the tickets may have been overpriced. At the end of April, the Yankees sliced the prices in half from $2,500 to $1,250, generating a sarcastic response from the rest of the world, specifically a punch line from David Letterman during the season.
"Paul McCartney is here tonight...Paul's going to be in town this week doing two shows this weekend out at Citi Field, home of the Mets. The reason he's doing the two shows at Citi Field, home of the Mets, is that he hopes from those concerts to raise enough money to buy a couple of tickets to go see the Yankees."
On a heavier note, the efforts to appease the fan have appeared not to warrant the extreme financial demands that come with going to a ballgame. During a May 4 rain delay against the Boston Red Sox, Yankees employees allegedly told fans to hit the road because there would be no baseball played that night. Except the game started at 9:00 P.M., and those that were told to leave were denied re-entry.
"We're a part of hundreds of people, if not thousands," Martin Watson, a Yankee fan who spent $800 for four tickets and was denied re-entry told the New York Daily News. "This is not fan-friendly. This is B.S. You pay money for a top-of-the-line franchise, and you get bottom-of-the-line customer service."
Although the stadium has received rave reviews for its tremendous overall presentation, all the positives have been washed away by the way the park has played, and the manner in which the customer has been served.
In the last section of my three part series chronicling troubles with new flashy stadiums, I will cover the issues that the Mets have experienced in Citi Field's inaugural season.